Settling into ETH Zurich

25 January 2019

Check out our first blog from Georgiana Birjovanu who is studying Computer Science at ETH Zurich for the year. Have a look at her impressions on settling in, travelling and the introductory programme 'ETH Week'!

Georgina blog 1

My year abroad officially started on 1 September. On that day, I had my train ride from Bern to Zürich. The decision to move away from London wasn’t easy as I had to adjust to the new reality - being far away from friends to start a new chapter in a different city. However, Zürich welcomed me with lovely autumn weather, a nice room in a student accommodation and other exchange students who came from all around the world.

Mountain Tunnel

I wanted to take advantage of the free weeks I had left before the start of university so I got my general traveling pass (called “GA”). I wanted to explore Switzerland and to discover places I have never visited before. One of the most impressive places that I had a chance to visit was the Schilthorn summit, in the Bernese Oberland. The panoramic view over Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau is breathtaking and the way to get there also offers amazing scenery. On the top of Schilthorn, it is possible to have brunch at 2,970 meters, in the Piz Gloria - the famous revolving restaurant where scenes from the 1969 James Bond Movie “On her Majesty’s Secret Service” were filmed. Some other wonderful places that I have been to were Montreux, Lugano, Geneva or Luzern.

My time at university started with a program for engineering students called “ETH Week”, for which I had to apply some months in advance. My decision to attend this program was inspired by UCL’s similar program called “How to Change the World” that I had to complete at the end of my second year of study. The main goal was to find a current problem that is related to this year’s theme of the program - “Manufacturing the future” and to design a viable solution within a team of future engineers coming from different domains.


I really enjoyed attending the “ETH Week” as it provided me great insight into the Swiss industry and manufacturing culture. It was great to see how technology is driven in order to develop sustainable products and services in almost every domain. At the daily events, we had guests that were CEOs of various Swiss companies, who presented their businesses, the trends of the current industry and the future challenges determined by a fast paced developing technology. I also had the opportunity to visit the HQ of IBM here in Switzerland, while some colleagues visited ABB , Social Fabric or other companies. As a Computer Scientist it was very interesting to see the current research that is being carried out at IBM in various fields - from robotics to machine learning or natural languages processing.

I love that the culture of Swiss people is also reflected in the curriculum of ETH. For the Engineering modules for Computer Science I could choose this term, one module was called Smart Energy. During this course we are learning about the challenges related to a sustainable energy usage from the technology and infrastructure perspective, with links to fundamentally important aspects such as security or privacy.

The Swiss people I met in Zürich are also very nice people, who are willing to help you, especially if you are new and feel lost and the students’ community is very united. One of the previous weekends I had the chance to visit the United Nations Office in Geneva, as Switzerland is well knows for being a neutral country and many negotiations are carried out there. It was a very special opportunity, especially since the office will be closed for visitors for the next seven years.

I am looking forward to making the most of my time at ETH, especially in Zürich, and hope to come back to London next year with many new interesting experiences, skills and friendships. 

ETH Campus

By Georgiana Birjovanu